There are calls for the Tauranga City Council to reverse its decision to gift a $1m piece of land leased by The Elms to a Māori trust.

In a meeting today, Western Bay of Plenty District councillor Margaret Murray Benge, Friends of The Elms (a community group that no longer has any official ties to The Elms Foundation) chairman Jim Sherlock and ratepayers Rob Paterson and Richard Prince called for the council to gift 11 Mission St to The Elms Foundation.

That, they said, was the initial intention when the council bought the 1400m sq section in 2006 to secure it for the future development of The Elms - one of New Zealand's oldest heritage sites.

In a split decision, the council agreed December in principle - subject to negotiations and public consultation - to transfer 11 Mission St to the Ōtamataha Trust at no cost.


It was on the understanding the trust would lease the land to The Elms Foundation at a "peppercorn" rent such as $1 a year.

"Rubbish" cried dozens of Friends of The Elms supporters at the meeting when Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout asked how they felt about the trust agreeing to a peppercorn rent.

Murray-Benge said at the time of the purchase it had been explicitly understood that land would go to The Elms and transferring it to the trust made "no sense at all".

"You cannot guarantee that what you say now is what will happen in the future."

Prince said the council had not fully considered the implications of giving the land to the trust and it would "strengthen the demands for future claims for Tauranga City Council land".

Consultation on the decision was expected to begin in late March.

The Elms Foundation currently leases the land from the council and in 2011 requested ownership of the property be transferred to it at no cost.

The Ōtamataha Trust, which represents the interests of Ngāi Tamarāwaho and Ngati Tapu, also put in a claim to be gifted the land in recognition of their mana whenua status and ancestral connection, subject to a lease favouring the foundation.


The foundation planned to develop the property as a reception and education centre for The Elms with facilities to maintain and display its heritage collection.

The trust and foundation had met and agreed to the basic ownership and rental structure.

The Elms Foundation took a neutral stance on the council's decision in December.